Health and Safety
Purpose / Aim
All who participate in investigations of traffic accidents in DaCoTA must have the knowledge and equipment to be able to conduct these investigations in a safe manner. The purpose of this document is to provide all investigators with information on how to perform investigations in the safest possible way at an accident site. All investigators who work with accidents in DaCoTA must have read and know this routine. Team leaders have a duty, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their team.
Each team member has a duty to co-operate with his or her team leader and to take reasonable care of their own safety and that of others who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work.
Team members should notify the team leader of any short-comings in the health and safety arrangements so that the team leader can take such remedial action as may be needed. In order to meet this requirement it is necessary for each individual to observe safe working practices at all times, and to be aware of any potential hazards, risks or dangers which are present, or may arise, in the course of their duties.
PERSONAL SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT; IF A SITUATION DEVELOPS, PERSONAL SECURITY MUST TAKE PRIORITY OVER ALL ELSE.
The methods outlined within this section should be applied in conjunction with relevant Detailed Methodology sections.
1. Travelling to the Scene of an Accident
The vehicle used for on scene investigations should ideally be equipped with warning lights on the roof and high visibility reflective material on the body. The lights may be used when they are needed to improve safety for the investigators or other road users by enhancing visibility and acting as a warning (please check for local laws/guidelines in your country regarding light colour and acceptable use). Unless you have an emergency services vehicle, driven by appropriately trained and authorised emergency services personnel, then local speed limits must be adhered to at all times. The driver must have a valid driving licence and insurance (insurance should usually be provided by the employer).
The vehicle should be kept in a safe, legal and roadworthy condition. It must not be loaded over its design carrying weight and tyre pressures must conform to the vehicle loading. All equipment must be evenly distributed and restrained where necessary. No load should be placed or carried on the back seat of the vehicle and if possible, loose items should be stored in a closed container in the rear of the vehicle. If using a saloon car then all equipment should be stored in the boot. If using an estate car or van then a suitable load restraint must be fitted. Emergency equipment must be kept readily available (e.g. first aid kit, fire extinguisher, torches).
The driver and passengers must wear their seatbelts at all times while in the vehicle and try to avoid carrying large items in pockets while restrained. If using a handheld video camera in the front passenger seat, then consider disabling the front passenger airbag.
In the case of adverse weather conditions, if the driver or other team members do not feel comfortable travelling, the driver should either slow down to an appropriate speed or the job should be abandoned. If the driver feels over tired, ill or unfit in any other way they must not drive.
2. Arrival on Scene and Scene Safety
There must always be at least two investigators working at an accident site. One of the investigators is the case leader and is in charge of the investigation team. The first thing to be done when an investigation team arrives at an accident site is for the case leader to assess the situation and whether it is possible to work safely. If the accident site is regarded as too dangerous, the investigators must not stop but keep on driving. If possible, the investigators should stop nearby and wait and see if the situation improves, e.g. if emergency services take control of the accident site and manage the traffic. If the accident site is regarded as safe, then the vehicle should be parked safely and in such a way that it does not hinder the entrance and exit of emergency vehicles. Team members should not open the vehicle doors while it is still moving. The driver and passengers should be able to exit the vehicle without walking directly into a live carriageway. At an accident site, the vehicle should preferably be parked in front of a heavy vehicle (such as a fire engine), in a restricted area or at least ahead of police vehicles (Figure 1). If possible the vehicle should be parked at an angle with the front wheels turned so the vehicle does not continue straight ahead if it is hit. When parked, the vehicle should preferably be locked.
Figure 1: Safe Parking Technique
The next thing to do is make contact with the rescue services commander or police. The investigators should introduce themselves, check where they are allowed to work, ask about any restrictions and make sure that the DaCoTA vehicle is not parked so it interferes with rescue operations. Teams should consider the use of two-way radios to stay in contact when working on a large scene. It is recommended that all team members will have a key to the vehicle while on shift – for safety, convenience and to maintain access to equipment. All team members should carry and use torches at night – batteries should be checked at the beginning of each shift. There may be flammable liquids on scene. Do not smoke at the crash scene and be aware of others smoking i.e. bystanders or others involved in the collision. Also be aware of fumes on scene, particularly from exhaust emissions. Teams should try to ensure that where possible they move around the scene (even rotating roles) and take breaks away from areas where fumes may be particularly high. When noisy equipment is in use, team members should consider wearing ear defenders.
If at any time any team member feels unsafe or threatened (and this cannot be resolved immediately) then the team should stop the investigation and leave the scene (this also applies to post-crash scene visits, retrospective interviews and vehicle follow ups)
PERSONAL SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT; IF A SITUATION DEVELOPS, PERSONAL SECURITY MUST TAKE PRIORITY OVER ALL ELSE INCLUDING THE COLLECTION OF EQUIPMENT USED ON SCENE.
Making the Site Safe
Teams should always be aware of the risk of moving traffic, and the possibility of further vehicles intruding into the accident scene. Vehicles parked in ‘fend-off’ position (at an angle which deflects away from the scene) provide some protection. Where appropriate, the team leader should discuss with police whether the road, or part of the road can be closed to traffic. The team should place cones and signs where appropriate (where the road is still at least partially open and has not been coned out by other services attending). Cones should be placed ahead of the first emergency service vehicle (in a fend-off position) and be staggered from the nearside kerb (or offside kerb if the situation occurs) to a safe width into the road.
Figure 2: Coned Accident Site
The cones should be placed out from the “front” of the crash scene rearwards. This protects the person coning out, as they are placed within the coned-off area heading forwards. Similarly, when retrieving the cones, the person collecting them in should start at the rear of the scene and walk forwards; again this is to protect them from walking in live traffic. Emergency lights should be set up if required. If necessary, have someone alerting oncoming traffic ahead of the potential danger of the team working on the road.
If the scene is contaminated with any hazardous substances then the DaCoTA team should stay well clear until the area is deemed safe by fire services. Also be alert to the risk of electric shock. Consider carefully the positioning of electrical goods, and keep them out of direct rain. Electrical equipment must be maintained and tested by the authorised service agent according to national safety requirements. If running cables, also try to avoid creating trip hazards.
Investigators should familiarise themselves with the site, checking that the ground is clear and consider using illumination where necessary. Before moving any debris, ensure that its position is measured and photographed, and check with police at the scene that it does not need to be left in place as evidence. Team members should not risk their health to assist with moving damaged vehicles.
3. Examination of Vehicles
When examining vehicles on scene, where possible, always exit and enter vehicles and deal with occupants from the side away from the live traffic lane (if the road has not been closed). If possible, do not work in a live traffic lane. If unavoidable, use another team member as look out whilst carrying out work – they should do no other task while acting as look out. Also consider using two way radios to alert each other of potential hazards.
Be aware of the potential risk of personal injury from airbags and pretensioners. Do not tamper with undeployed airbags or pretensioners. Do not work directly in front of an undeployed airbag and keep fingers clear of pretensioners.
Always assess the stability of a vehicle (and any load) before investigation – Seek safety advice if the vehicle or its load seem unstable - if it is not safe do not risk your health to examine it.
Ensure the vehicle handbrake is properly applied and ignition switched off (be aware of preservation of evidence, if unsure check with the police at the scene). Investigators should always liaise with police officer in charge before moving or destroying evidence in and around the vehicle.
Wear suitable protective clothing to avoid contamination by oils, fuel, greases etc., pay particular attention to wearing thick protective gloves and kneepads/protectors when working around broken glass and jagged metal edges. Try to avoid direct contact with sharp surfaces where possible.
Loose debris and fluid around vehicles can cause damage to the eyes. Investigators should wear eye protection (goggles/safety glasses) which will also help to prevent accidental contamination of their eyes by rubbing. Remember that some parts of the vehicle may still be very hot – such as the exhaust. Try to wait for such parts to cool and wear thick protective gloves when handling. Be particularly cautious when dealing with fire damaged vehicles due to the serious contamination risk (see Fire section).
Be aware when examining vehicle components for the risk of injury due to unexpected operation of the item being examined or tested. Again, use protective gloves and goggles and liaise with other on scene services for advice where appropriate.
It is recommended that a fire extinguisher should be carried in the project vehicle. In the case of an uncontrolled fire, risks include burns, smoke inhalation and explosion. The DaCoTA team should immediately evacuate the area. After a vehicle has caught fire there is a risk of injury from hot vehicle parts. The team must wait for the vehicle to cool down. After a burnt out vehicle has cooled there is still a contamination risk from hydrofluoric acid – which is released at high temperatures from the rubber-like materials used for many gaskets, o-rings and seals. Hydrofluoric acid is very toxic and can cause severe burns. Impermeable gloves and goggles must be worn for examination of burnt out vehicles. Contaminated gloves must be safely disposed of. It is very important to ensure there is no skin contact with hydrofluoric acid. If a person believes they have been contaminated then affected clothing should be removed and the body areas involved washed thoroughly with water. All persons suspected to be contaminated must be taken to their nearest hospital as quickly as possible. Teams should also be aware of the risk of electrical fire and under no circumstances should a battery be reconnected once it has been disconnected.
4. Dealing with People
At most investigations, teams will be speaking directly with members of the public. Where possible, they will be talking to the accident involved road users and any available eyewitnesses about the circumstances of the collision. They may also need to direct other road users away from the scene and respond appropriately to questions from bystanders. Investigators should be professional and courteous, but should be aware that tensions can run quite high at accident scenes and they may sometimes be faced with high levels of emotion, and even aggression. If at any time they feel under threat they should remove themselves from that situation and ensure that the case leader and all other team members on scene are aware. Investigators should not put themselves at risk and if they feel there is a continued threat, the team should leave the scene immediately. Where interviews are conducted on scene, the investigator must find a safe place away from moving traffic and any other risks associated with the accident scene to conduct the interview. In the interests of personal safety and legal protection, it is recommended to stay within sight of other personnel on the scene.
5. General Safety and Welfare of DaCoTA Personnel
Personal Protective Clothing
- Investigators must always wear clothing with fluorescent areas on the upper body when working on an accident site. The clothing must conform to EN 471 class 3. All fluorescent material on the clothing should be yellow and/or orange. The top should have long sleeves. In darkness, bad weather or poor visibility, trousers with fluorescent areas must be used. The trousers should conform to EN 471 class 2. Although, it is recommended that trousers be used at all times though. High visibility clothing must be kept clean to ensure that it remains effective.
- Investigators who work on scene should wear shoes with steel toes and nail-resistant soles.
- To prevent cuts, other injuries and exposure to blood-borne pathogens, gloves must be used on vehicle inspections. Thicker protective gloves made of leather or similar must be worn on all vehicle inspections to prevent cuts and other injuries. If a vehicle is suspected to be contaminated with blood-borne pathogens (e.g. hepatitis), protective gloves made of latex must be worn under the thicker gloves to provide an additional barrier to provide protection against contamination and/or infection.
Team members should be aware of the risk of contracting communicable diseases from direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids. As well as wearing all necessary personal protective clothing, it is also recommended that teams have an inoculation policy. Recommended inoculations include Hepatitis B and Tetanus. Occasionally road users may conceal needles or other dangerous items within their vehicle. Investigators should be very careful when examining vehicle interiors – particularly when looking for seatbelt labels at night – always use a torch when dark.
In hot weather, teams working out in the open should use sunscreen and wear appropriate hats. They should be provided with lightweight high visibility clothing. Take breaks from working in direct sun where possible and keep hydrated – keep bottles of water in the DaCoTA vehicle. For cold/wet weather teams should be provided with a good standard of high visibility weather protective garments. The team should take regular breaks in a warm vehicle if exposure is prolonged and it is recommended that a flask of hot water is carried in the car for making warm drinks.
Dealing with Distressing Accidents
Investigators may feel distressed by any of the sights, sounds or smells experienced whilst on scene or at any time afterwards and this is not always predictable. If any team member feels uncomfortable about anything they are being exposed to from attending a crash scene, then they must make their feelings known to the case leader (and the case leader should inform the team leader). Some team members may find attendance at collisions involving death and serious injury quite stressful. There should be routine de-briefing within teams. Independent counselling should be freely available, and where appropriate, staff should be instructed to attend.
All who participate in investigations of traffic accidents in DaCoTA must have the knowledge and equipment to be able to conduct these investigations in a safe manner. This includes third persons who accompany an investigation team to an accident site or a vehicle inspection. A third person can be either an investigator-in-training or a guest. An investigator-in-training is someone who is accompanying a DaCoTA investigation team to an accident site or a vehicle inspection as part of his/her training. All other third persons are guests. The purpose of this routine is to provide third persons with information on how to behave in the safest possible way at an accident site or vehicle inspection site. All third persons who accompany a DaCoTA investigation team must have read and know this routine.
At an accident site
The case leader on site is responsible for and in charge of the investigation team. A third person who accompanies an DaCoTA investigation team to an accident must follow the case leader’s instructions on where it is safe to be and what to do. If possible and applicable, the third person should accompany the case leader. A third person who is an investigator-in-training can perform some tasks such as photographing the accident site if the case leader decides he or she can do this safely, has had prior instructions in the proper routine and the task is performed as part of his/her training to become an investigator. A third person who is a guest and not in training to become a DaCoTA investigator may not perform tasks.
At a vehicle inspection site
A third person must follow the instructions of the case leader or investigator in charge of a vehicle inspection on where it is safe to be and what to do. A third person can perform some tasks such as photographing the vehicle if the case leader decides he or she can do this safely, has had prior instructions in the proper routine and the task is performed as part of his/her training to become an investigator. A third person who is a guest and not in training to become a DaCoTA investigator may do so at the discretion of the case leader or investigator in charge of a vehicle inspection.
Personal Protective Gear
The rules regarding clothing, shoes and gloves apply to third persons as well as DaCoTA investigators.
Dealing with Distressing Accidents
Visitors may feel distressed by any of the sights, sounds or smells experienced whilst on scene or at any time afterwards and this is not always predictable. If any visitor feels uncomfortable about anything they are being exposed to from attending a crash scene, then they must make their feelings known to the case leader (and the case leader should inform the team leader). The visitor should return to the DaCoTA vehicle until departure from the scene can be arranged.
Some visitors may find attendance at collisions involving death and serious injury quite stressful. There should be invited to any de-briefing within the team and made aware of the availability of counselling where required.
Car - Parking and Equipment
The vehicle used for on scene investigations is driven by one of the two members of the investigations team. A third person should not drive the car unless in an emergency. The case leader should inform a third person who has the car keys and where the first aid kit is located in the investigation vehicle.
All third persons accompanying a DaCoTA investigation team to an accident site must be insured by their employer. All third persons should also be given instructions in the relevant safety procedures by a person appointed by DaCoTA. Relevant safety procedures include this routine and other routines and instructions that may be applicable.
7. Retrospective Investigations
When working retrospectively, teams must be aware of the same hazards as for on-scene work. In addition, special consideration should be given to the health and safety aspects of retrospective site examination.
When returning to the site of an accident, teams may wish to collect data from a live carriageway (a road with traffic), without the benefit of an emergency services presence. In many ways this can be more hazardous than data collection within on-scene investigations.
If it is necessary to enter the road on foot, then consideration should be given to what safety precautions can be taken. As always, team members must wear high visibility clothing. It is important that investigators work in pairs, with one team member measuring / taking photographs etc. while the second team member is solely responsible for alerting the other to oncoming traffic at all times.
If local permissions allow you to cone out a safe working area then do so. Also consider parking a vehicle in a fend off position if it is safe, appropriate and legal to do so.
If it is unsafe to collect certain data retrospectively – then do not collect it. If the road is busy and unprotected then consider returning at a quieter time – but do not risk the safety of your team – and remember some roads may never be safe (or even legal) to enter as a pedestrian.
Please refer to the main Equipment List for the Health and Safety equipment list.
Please refer to the Arrangement section of the Methodology Outline Health and Safety section.